Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Playa by Day...

This is going to be a 2-part post. Now that we've got that out of the way...

We made a trek out to Black Rock Hot Springs a couple weeks ago with Riley, Mike, and Dave. Our extraordinarily extended winter left a lot of extra water on the playa, and this complicated our routefinding on the way out there. Since the playa is pancake flat, it's hard to gain any vertical perspective to aid in navigation, and we ended up having to go waaaaaay north and then backtracking to the hot spring to avoid getting stuck. Permanently. Or at least for a couple months.

As soon as we got to higher ground (the hot spring is ~50' above the playa), the source of our detour became painfully obvious: a rather hard to miss 6-mile wide lake blocked our desired path. Duly noted for the way out! We arrived to an eerily calm afternoon; almost unheard of out there. The spring was in good shape although a touch hot for the air temperature; it'd have to wait 'til morning.

The hot spring attracts life

Stiff grass; the spring is surrounded by this stuff 6' tall

The desert is a very inhospitable place, but I'm always stunned by the tenacity of the organisms that have adapted to the environment. Grass, bugs, birds, bats, and more thrive while subjected to this paucity of water. The sun's heat combined with the localized heat and humidity from the spring sent us wandering up a rocky slope for a better view. We watched the sunset and the onset of dusk from up there, and mighty cathartic it was.

Murphy surveys the vastness of it all

Mike and Dave await sunset

When the sun dipped below the mountains, the temperature noticeably plummeted. By the minute. Accordingly, we wandered back down the hill and added another layer of clothes. At this point, we're going to skip ahead to the next day's exploration, and conspicuously leave out everything between dusk and dawn. Oooooooh, foreshadowing. Wonder what part two'll be about!

As soon as the sun hit the tent, I woke up and headed straight for the spring. It was stiflingly hot but restorative all at the same time; still quite a shock to the body. After a breakfast featuring both coffee and a bloody mary for everyone, we started breaking down camp. And then Mike found a new friend under his tent!

So cute and sting-y

With camp taken apart, we headed for some smaller semi-hidden playas we had heard about for a look around. They are quite special; their smaller size lends an air of privacy to them. I imagine that won't be my last visit there. Of note, we had a -great- game of frisbee out there.

Mike heads for the horizon

Now heating up rapidly, we returned to camp, loaded the cars, and retreated back across the playa, this time with the knowledge of how to avoid the massive freakin' lake. We picked a nice spot in the middle for lunch and shaded ourselves with the side of the truck.

The playa bakes as the Black Rock looms

Sandwiches fueling us, we headed home after yet another quick but successful journey to a wild and special place. And that foreshadowing from earlier? As day turns to night, the veil of darkness slips down to the horizon...

Ooooooh, colors

Stay tuned :)


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